"The Violence Project,"
a new musical conceived, composed and directed by Elizabeth Swados, performed
by a youthful ensemble of 23, examines the epidemic of kids' violence in
the U.S. Originally a schools project, it is being offered to a wider audience
through this La MaMa production out of respect for the piece's deep message
and the deep truthfulness of its young cast, who range in age from twelve
Every three years, Ms.
Swados convenes a workshop with college and high school and junior high school
students on a topic having to do with contemporary issues. These workshops
have turned into off-Broadway performance pieces that tour schools. Most
"The Hating Pot," having to do with racism and anti-Semitism, was
made into a documentary for PBS. "The Violence Project" is the most
current of these workshops.
"The Violence Project"
goes deeply into kids' violence, but it doesn't romanticize it or glorify it.
The piece uses music, movement, singing and puppetry to talk about the roots
of violence, the ultimate stupidity of violence and the uselessness of it. It
is primarily interested in the precarious line between committing a violent
act and holding back, asking, "Who are the people who cross the line to
violence and who are the people who can control their impulses?" It also
provides humor, making fun of violent types of people and dramatic forms that,
for all intents and purposes, advertise violence as a product. Through laughter
it presents some of the harshest facts. It also demonstrates that young people
can use theater as a viable means of communication and entertainment. When
it is performed in schools, workshops are provided for selected students that
concentrate on the show's themes as well as the art of musical theater, and
these students are encouraged to improvise with mentors from the young troupe.
The actors, who have all
contributed material to the show, are Leila Ali, Bart Atsin, Travis Baird, Malcolm
Barrett, Aaron Bogad, Matt Carwile, Brooke Cenicola, Bill DeMeritt, Mercedes
Edwards, Tabitha Ferrer, Toure Harris, Robbie Hertzron, Meredith Holzman, Chantel
Jeudy, Rachel Kimsey, Stephen McGrath, K'Dee Miller, Nicole Newton, Tim Novikoff,
Vaughn Rush, Shana Starks, Stella Sensei, and Liz Taubeneck. Stage manager is
Sara Baldwin; musical director is Kris Kukul.
The project is brought
to you by ArtsConnection, with the help of the Surdna Foundation, Philip Morris
Companies, Inc., The New York Times Company Foundation, Peter Lengyel, Horizons
Theatre School and La MaMa E.T.C. This project is also supported, in part, with
public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Cultural
Elizabeth Swados has been
acclaimed as a leading creator of works for younger actors since her Broadway
hit, "Runaways." She began her professional career as a composer at
La MaMa, where she worked with Peter Brook and Andrei Serban and won her first
Obie at age 21 for setting "Medea" to ethnic music. Her memorable
La MaMa productions include "Fragments of a Greek Trilogy" with Serban,
"Crow" with Robbie Anton and the opera-oratorio "Jerusalem."
In 1996, she directed a pair of her own musicals, "Doonesbury Flashbacks,"
based on Garry Trudeau's comic strip, and "The Emperor's New Clothes"
based loosely on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, at La MaMa. Last season,
she brought another young company to La MaMa for a post-election political satire
and contributed to the score of Ellen Stewart's "Seven Against Thebes,"
a dance-opera adaptation of the classic play by Aeschylus, which was performed
by the Great Jones Repertory.
Swados has been writing
music, theater and books professionally for almost 30 years. She has been nominated
for Tony , Drama Desk, Ace and Emmy Awards and has won several Obies, Outer
Critics Circle Awards, a PEN Citation, and an Anne Frank National Foundation
for Jewish Culture award. Her Broadway credits also include "Doonesbury."
Her Off-Broadway credits also include, among others, "Alice in Wonderland"
(with Meryl Streep), "Dispatches," "The Haggadah", "Jerusalem,"
"Rap Music Ronnie" (with Gary Trudeau), and "Missionaries."
Beside La MaMa, her works
have been seen at The Public Theater, Manhattan Theater Club, Brooklyn Academy
of Music, Lincoln Center Institute, Mark Taper Forum, and many other Off-
and Off-off Broadway houses. She has published three novels, and two nonfiction
books and her works have been optioned by Milos Forman and Marion Brando.
Currently she is adapting her children's book, "Dreamtective," for Disney. Ms.
Swados is currently creating a new musical piece called "The Three Gods"
and her newest novel, "Flamboyant," just came out in paperback, published
by Picador. She has taught at New York University and has conducted workshops
at many colleges across the country and in forums in France, Israel, parts of
Africa, Brazil, as well as regional theaters in the U.S. Her CD, "The Bible
Women," went in the NASA Space Shuttle as a choice of music for Astronaut